“My name is Amanda*. And this is my story.
I grew up in rural Alabama, away from the hustle and bustle of a big city and all the drama that comes along with it. Even though my parents both came from broken backgrounds, they were raising me differently, and I thought my childhood was protected from all the dangers of the outside world.
But I was wrong. In the seeming innocence of smalltown America, I was molested by my cousin at the age of seven. It was the beginning of a lifetime of abuse, struggles and poor decisions. When I was 14, I was raped by someone I knew and trusted. When I was 15, I lost my father to suicide.
After my father died, everything changed. I started looking to older men for attention and love—it was the only way I knew how to fill the void I felt from losing my dad. I went through two failed marriages, both of which were entangled with abuse, trauma and brokenness. At that point I thought it could not get any worse, but I was wrong again.
When I was 36, while visiting family in Mobile, Alabama, I was kidnapped from a hotel by a violent trafficker. I later found out that a woman overheard my conversation that day and sold me out to the trafficker in exchange for drugs.
After I was kidnapped, I was missing for eight months.
During that window of time I was trafficked across the country, held hostage in box trucks and hotel rooms, performing sexual acts against my will. I was desperate to escape—in my efforts to get away I was shot, drugged, raped, sodomized and beaten. I could not find a way out. I realized that if I wanted to live, I had to do whatever was needed to stay alive. I worked out that if I incentivized my trafficker to hit me in the face, I was less appealing to clients and would have to service less men. I started using that as a survival technique—ugly face meant less trafficking.
One day, after months of abuse and violent exploitation, a day that should have been the end of my life, ended up being the turning point of my life.
My trafficker completely lost control in a violent rage and smashed my head into a dashboard. Thinking he had killed me, he left me in a ditch for dead. An incredible person who was driving by stopped and took me to the emergency room. I was physically free, but inside, I had yet to find freedom from my traumatic experiences.
I spent the next three years running from myself, with only the love I felt for my children keeping me physically alive and pushing forward. I did not want to live and felt completely alone in the world—I didn’t know how to get away from the pain of my experiences. I tried to take my life on several occasions. I used drugs, got arrested, almost got kidnapped again, and engaged in constant self destructive behavior, all in an attempt to numb the pain. Nothing worked. I had lived a life full of abuse and mistreatment from men. So much of my pain and confusion was a result of the suppressed trauma I had experienced in my childhood. I was completely exhausted from the mental, physical and emotional abuse I had suffered through.
It was at this moment, three years after being saved from a ditch on the side of the road, that I realized I was going to die if I did not get help. In one of the first healthy steps I had taken in a long time, I picked up the phone and called The Well House (Atlas Free Local Partner).
A friend had told me about the organization and I truly believed it was a divine appointment from God. Going to their safe house was the best decision I ever made. I started to receive intensive therapy for my trauma, and began taking steps toward restoration. It took me addressing and facing my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual brokenness to truly start walking forward.
I have started to truly heal. In the midst of my journey toward health and wholeness, I have developed a deep relationship with God. I have found support, love and care from the staff that has completely transformed my life. God has shown me that I am gifted in art, and I have discovered a love for painting and drawing. Even though there are hard days, I finally feel like I can function like a normal human in everyday life.
When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the same person—my face and my smile are physically different than they were before. I know that I am redeemed, restored, chosen and called by God to do great things. I never knew that before.
I want to spend the rest of my life helping others—sharing my story and reaching out to people who desperately need help the way I needed help. I realize now that my life is a vessel for God to use to help other women find their way out of darkness. I am a new creation.” —Amanda
Right now, there are millions of women and children suffering in sex trafficking and exploitation, trapped in daily trauma, abuse, and violence. But you have the chance to create hope. Together, we can bring rescue, safety, and a brighter future to the most vulnerable women and children all over the world, from the United States to Kenya.
*Name has been changed for the protection of the survivor.